Super Bowl Sunday Sermon – If Jesus filled a stadium today, would he be Fake News?
…That’s what a member of the congregation at Spring Lake Village Retirement Community asked me after this sermon. Sadly, something to think about… February 4, 2018
Mark 1:29 – 39 As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.
That evening, at sunset, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. And the whole city was gathered around the door. And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.
In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. And Simon and his companions hunted for him. When they found him, they said to him, “Everyone is searching for you.” He answered, “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.” And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.
A LOT is happening in a very short amount of time in the first chapter of Mark. To bring us up to speed… John the Baptist proclaims that Jesus is coming… he arrives… is Baptized and infused with the Holy Spirit… goes into the desert for 40 days, resisting the temptations of satan… comes back to find John the Baptist arrested… and begins his own Ministry. He chooses his first disciples… and causes quite a stir with his first teaching and exorcism on the Sabbath at the synagogue in Capernaum… Everyone witnessing this is asking…What is this? A new teaching – and with authority!
So, here we are at today’s reading which is also jam packed… As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Just after the drama in the Synagogue, Jesus and his four disciples go immediately to Simon’s house which appears to be very close, if not next door, to the synagogue. Here Jesus is told right away that Simon’s mother-in-law is in bed with a fever. The gospels never talk about Simon being married and having a wife. But here we meet his mother-in-law who becomes one of the first recipients of Jesus’ healings.
…He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up... This is a deeply profound and intimate moment, at the opposite end of the spectrum from his morning exorcism. There’s no flashy miracle performed here… Jesus never says a word to this woman. He simply takes her hand and the fever leaves her. Here is the perfect example of the power of silent presence and healing touch. This is one of the most important lessons I’m learning as a hospital chaplain. We are more often called to BE at a patient’s bedside or with family as a silent witness, a quiet presence, and a conduit of spirit than to DO any form of religious ritual, or prayer. It is that grounded silent presence, holding space and occasionally offering a light caring touch that provides the most compassionate action, especially when no words can offer comfort.
Then the fever left her… it is not just the fever in her body that is healed. Jesus is a total body-mind-spirit healer. He heals her spiritually as well, imbuing her with an energy that lifts her up. The word used for lifting her up is egeire – which is also used later on to describe the resurrection, so Jesus resurrects this woman … and she began to serve them. The word used for “to serve” is diakonia, the root word for deacon, which means servant. Perhaps this goes beyond the literal interpretation of this woman getting out of bed and serving the men tea and crumpets. Peter’s mother-in-law becomes the first woman deacon and follower of Jesus, thereby serving the larger community he is building. Throughout the gospels it seems that women, more so than men, readily understand Jesus’ true message of serving others.
At this point in the story, it being the Sabbath, we assume that the group has a quiet afternoon, as there is not supposed to be any work during the day, until after sunset. One could argue that Jesus already broke that rule by “working” on that day with his healing of Simon’s mother-in-law. What Jesus does actually, is show that serving the needs of others overrides rules and regulations… he addresses the needs of those when they need to be addressed.
And he does this again when the crowd gathers at the door… That evening, at sunset, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. And the whole city was gathered around the door. I was curious to know how big the whole city of Capernaum was during the time of Jesus. I found some historical writing that said it was probably between 1000-1500 people. So “whole city” might be an exaggeration… but if tens of people or if a hundred people came to the door it might seem like the whole city.
And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; Again this portrays Jesus curing various physical illnesses, as well as mental and spiritual ailments, casting out demons. …and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him. What are we to make of Jesus silencing demons? Jesus comes to speak TRUTH, to speak truth to those in power and to teach the word of God. If alternate facts dominate the gossip preceding his journeys, and the people are told what they want to hear, his authoritative voice of truth will be diminished. Which in the end is what happened, and something we experience all too often in our society today.
Given that Jesus was healing the multitudes and that it started at sunset one can surmise that this went well into the night… and left him quite exhausted. In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. This is Jesus needing to recharge, regenerate to balance his introverted Self with his public persona. This is His form of self-care, what we all know we absolutely need to do, to be of service for others. Many people feel closer to God and find their spirit nourished more readily in nature … as it so poetically says in Psalm 147 – God determines the number of the stars; He gives to all of them their names…He covers the heavens with clouds, prepares rain for the earth, makes grass grow on the hills… the Lord takes pleasure in those who “are in awe”…in those who hope in his steadfast love.
I would like to share a moment when I was in nature and felt very close to God. I was on a small whale watching boat in Monterey, with only 15 people. Now I don’t swim, but I chose to be on a smaller boat because they can get closer to the whales, and for some reason I had absolutely no fear of being on the water. I was excited!! When we got out past the mouth of the bay where the water had been a little choppy, and we were on the open ocean, the swells were large, but gentle. At times our boat traveled in the trough between two swells so that the water was higher than the boat on both sides. At one point the swell in front of us was quite high. You couldn’t see beyond it and I had this fleeting moment of feeling totally at-one with my surroundings, of being “the drop in the ocean,” a metaphor some Eastern traditions use to describe our True Essence becoming one with the Divine Source in Unity Consciousness. And I felt utterly full of joy and love. It was a delicious fleeting moment of grace that I am deeply grateful for and that weekend in nature helped me replenish for the week to come.
Throughout the gospels Jesus goes off by himself in nature to pray, and to replenish his heart, for love cannot pour from an empty vessel. But alas, at this moment in Capernaum, there is little rest for Jesus. …And Simon and his companions hunted for him. When they found him, they said to him, “Everyone is searching for you.” This clearly indicates that word has spread and the masses are more interested in his healing powers than in the message he is carrying. Jesus got people’s attention with his miracles, but he would become frustrated that the miracles often times overshadowed the message he came to teach. He answered, “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.” And so Jesus launches his ministry…he has come to spread the good news in thought and deed, not to be a healing vending machine.
…And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons. Sadly, once Jesus performed miracles and word got out, the masses wouldn’t let him stop.
Speaking of masses… today is Super Bowl Sunday – 66,000 people will sit in the frigid cold to watch modern-day gladiators butt heads. I grew up in Western New York State and was a fan of the Buffalo Bills until they lost four straight Super Bowls in a row 1990 – 94. Over the years I lost interest, but as I contemplated Jesus launching his ministry in his time, I wondered what it would be like if Jesus were living among us today? I began to imagine Jesus filling a stadium. Thousands would line up to receive his healing touch or take selfies, like people do now with the Pope and the Dalai Lama. You could buy T-shirts, Ball-caps Bobble-heads and other memorabilia, there would be an iPhone app … and it wouldn’t be considered sacrilegious, it’s just how our materialistic society is today. Perhaps our culture is ripe for hearing His message again on a grand scale.
I find it fascinating that NBC will air the rock opera Jesus Christ Super Star as a live performance on Easter Sunday night April 1. As a teenager in the early 1970s, I and many of my generation, fell in love with Jesus and his story through Jesus Christ Super Star. Perhaps the viewership will rival that of the Super Bowl and another generation’s hearts and minds will be mesmerized, or at least intrigued, by Jesus and his teachings.
In closing, I’d like to share a poem that I heard this past week that really touched me, and was the impetus for thinking about what it might be like if Jesus walked among us today.
The Bridegroom by L. William Countryman
What drew the crowds after you in your wanderings?
Your stories made us uneasy.
Your teachings seldom comforted.
There was no fantasy, no assurance
That everything would come right.
Even the miracles were unnerving,
Though we all flocked to get one
For ourselves. You raised the dead girl,
Then denied it. You refused the woman
Of Canaan, then gave her what she asked
And freed her daughter from the demons.
But you would do nothing without our consent.
At Nazareth, they couldn’t see anything new
In their old homeboy, and you
Could do nothing, could awaken in them no sense of hope.
Still, people flocked to you. Why?
In the hope of gain, of course.
Because other people were doing it,
Looking for revolution, maybe.
Mostly because they saw in you a person strong enough to be free
Free enough to love.
So as you go about your day… think about how it might be if Jesus were living and teaching among us today and how you reflect that tenacious Spirit of His – strong enough to be free – free enough to love.
o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o
Spring Lake Village Aug 13 and Northbrae Community Church Sep 17
Matthew 14:22-33 Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
Sermon I see this not only as a story of Faith and doubt, Trust and Devotion in Jesus and GOD, but also the courage to step into the unknown, and have Faith in our Selves… Let’s look at where Jesus and his disciples have just been, to help us take a deeper, more personal look at what lies beneath the surface of this passage.
Jesus had recently learned of the murder of his beloved mentor, John the Baptist… AND…he and his disciples spent the day putting on a miraculous picnic on the shores of Galilee – feeding 5000 people with a serious food shortage – 5 loaves and 2 fish to feed the multitudes. So at the end of the day… The Gospel says: Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. I imagine that Jesus is really tired, and sad, and very much needing time to himself …to ground, re-center, recharge, meditate, to pray – to have a conversation with GOD and to re-affirm his own Faith, in GOD, his work, his disciples, himself.
So why did Jesus put his disciples in the boat to go ahead and cross to the other side? What lesson did he want them to learn for themselves while he was alone on the mountain? When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them.
Imagine the 12 disciples in the boat and they’re talking about the day, the miracle they witnessed and participated in feeding the masses. At some point someone amongst them is going to question “what just happened back there?” …And by way, why did Jesus send us on without him anyway??… BAM – the winds and waves of doubt rise up. The more they question and doubt the more the waves batter the boat and the wind blows against them. What is this storm really? I think it represents the fear, the doubt, the chaos they have sown in their MINDS!!
I’m struck by Mother Nature’s metaphoric symbolism and lessons in this story.
Mountains – often represent being closer to GOD. Prophets — Moses, Abraham, Jesus, Mohammed, all went up the mountain to converse with the Almighty. Mountains imply stillness, steadfastness, unshakable strength, aspiration and inspiration. Jesus goes up the mountain to “be like the mountain,” and to reconnect with GOD.
Waves – obviously represent turbulence, chaos, also cycles, and repetitive patterns. Let’s suppose the waves symbolize the turbulence roiling up in the minds of the disciples. … Waves “rock the boat”… right?
Wind – how often do we hear “change is in the wind?” “May the wind be always at your back.” Or in the wise words of Bob Dylan, “The answer my friends is blowin’ in the wind…” What if we see the wind as GOD in the form of a renewable resource of Faith and Trust? … Here, the disciples’ boat is facing into a “head wind” because their minds are full of doubt, and fear.
And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” Here the fear and distress of the disciples is palpable “It is a ghost!” they cry. They’ve been in a storm all night and then in the pre-dawn darkness they see a figure coming toward them. Is it not always darkest before the dawn? So they are absolutely terrified at what they’re seeing, and Jesus simply says – “Take heart, it is I, do not be afraid…” I think it’s worth noting that Jesus says, “take heart…” perhaps he’s giving his disciples the key to where and how to hold their faith and devotion… in their hearts.
Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” Jesus said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. I think Peter is saying to Jesus – “I SEE YOU…I see that you are the Son of God, that you are a Divine Being and I want to be like you, I want to come closer to GOD…” So he’s not only testing Jesus he’s testing himself. Peter is the disciple willing to take the first courageous step, a step towards his own Awakening, towards his own Christ Consciousness?
But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” Because Peter allows the “strong winds” of doubt to enter his mind, he becomes fearful and can’t maintain his Faith, his buoyancy, so he has that “sinking feeling.” Peter doesn’t yet have the level of devotion and trust in Jesus or himself to remain afloat.
This past year I lived at an ashram studying with my Guru, Babaji. He tells a wonderful little story about a Guru – disciple relationship. The word Gu-Ru in Sanskrit means “remover of darkness, or remover of doubt, ” and that removal is meant to happen internally, to remove our egoic ignorance and to connect with our Divinity within. Kind of sounds like what Jesus does, doesn’t it?
Anyway – in this story, there was a great disciple who was completely and utterly devoted to his Guru. He served his Guru in every way. One day his Guru went way out in the river maybe 10-15 yards, and knowing his disciple didn’t swim called for him. He said, “Bring me that towel!” The disciple did not hesitate even for a moment. He took the Guru’s towel, stepped into the river and started walking. As the story goes, wherever his feet landed in the water, lotus leaves supported him. From then on he was called Padmapāda. Padma means ‘lotus’, Pāda means ‘feet’.
Recently when I was experiencing my own doubts, a friend reminded me of a scene in an Indiana Jones movie where Indie is standing on the edge of a precipice that he must cross to save everyone in his party, and all he sees is the abyss below. Does that feel familiar??? He then has a memory flash of his father speaking to him with love and wisdom… and with his hand over his heart, Indie takes a step into thin air …only to have his foot land on an invisible earthen bridge. The precipice… his fear… was an illusion in his mind. The earthen bridge…his salvation… rose forth from the Faith and Love in his heart.
Faith, trust and devotion live in our hearts. Our illusions and fears along with our will and determination live in our minds. Quieting the mind to a single-pointed focus and trusting the Divine with all our heart makes it possible to do miraculous things: like walk on hot coals, break boards with bare hands, recover from immense tragedy and take courageous steps forward into the unknown.
Over the years I’ve taken many first steps, as I’m sure we all have. I moved across country not once, but twice in my life with no job and no home lined up. I survived a near-death episode at the age of 49. Closed my business, sold my home moved to California and went back to school at 59. We keep moving forward and we keep showing up for whatever is next, and we keep working to diminish our doubts and fears and to cultivate a deeper faith and trust in GOD, the Divine, Mystery and our Higher Selves.
Back to Peter walking on water… Water so it symbolizes support. It also symbolizes emotions, like we often get into “deep water” or “hot water” with our emotions. So Peter gets that sinking feeling the moment he loses the calmness in his heart, and the winds of doubt swirl around him in his dis-belief. But Jesus, with steadfast compassion and mercy reaches out and catches him, naming Peter’s lack of faith “You of little faith…” and leaving him to ponder the question, “…why do you doubt?”
When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” Like most people reading this passage my first thought is that the disciples are directing this worship toward Jesus. And of course they are… but what if they included Peter? Isn’t Peter also a son of GOD? And aren’t you a son, and you a daughter and you… aren’t we ALL children of GOD and aren’t we ALL in the same boat? Once the disciples witness Peter’s walk on water, albeit brief, did they not see that they too have the capacity for the Divine within themselves. I think this is an important lesson for them because they’re being groomed as the healers and miracle workers to go forth into the collective consciousness of doubt and fear and chaos in their stormy world at their time.
I don’t need to go into any detail about the natural or man-made storms swirling about us in our world these days. The daily turbulence and uncertainty in our lives does test our faith. But if we ask ourselves, why do we doubt?? The truth is that every step we take every day is a step into the unknown. At some point we have to learn to trust our Higher Selves, and to be still and know that we are not alone.
In closing I’d like to share a short poem by Catholic Theologian and Mystic Thomas Merton that resonates for me around this question. My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself. And the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.
At the beginning of the reading, the disciple’s boat was to “cross to the other side…” Life is a journey of multiple crossings, and like the River Jordon and the Sea of Galilee it can be full of battering waves, it can be chilly, cold, deep and wide… If we can still our minds, open our hearts and cultivate a mountain of Faith we just might be able to quiet the storms that rage… both inside us and in our world.
So let us close our eyes and pray, give our selves a moment to take a few deep breaths…. Let’s give thanks and know that we never face our perils alone… God/Jesus/the Holy Spirit, the Divine in all its forms is with us always. May we find peace in that. Amen.
Rev. Lisa j Winston ©2017
My Ordination Homily
November 19, 2016 I would like to offer up a prayer-poem encouraging us to be responsible to our fellow human beings and to ourselves…
Beloveds, Let us look inward, deeply…past the gatekeepers of arrogance, pride, lust, greed, sloth, anger, fear and aversions. Step into the inner sanctum, the Holy of Holies, where the Shakti energy rises to the natural frequency of Divine Truth. Enter the center of your own vortex where you must stay grounded in stillness. Be in discernment so as not to spin endlessly in your mind’s imagination. Listen to that still voice of your inner Guru, “stop, take a step back, take a breath…” and then with conscious speech say only what is necessary. Stay disciplined in your daily practice filling your soul chalice,so that selfless service pours forth with Divine grace. Be mindful of every word… every thought… every action. Practice compassion. It is far more powerful than tolerance. Keep the tabernacle of your heart open… pure and free to love and be loved. Safe sacred space is our birthright… and our calling is to hold it for all. Forgive yourself and others… in all ways. See beauty, elegance and nobility flowering in each soul. Our purpose in this human form is to unite with the Divine. Be courageous and have faith in the mystery… the unknown, with no attachment to outcomes… even though it is most uncomfortable. Let go of anything that no longer serves… and learn when enough is enough. Because nothing is worth losing our peace… I bow to the Divine within you – Namaste Reverend Lisa j Winston
To BE Sacred – Sonoma Ashram Satsang
May 15, 2016
After completing the Interfaith Studies program at The Chaplaincy Institute in Berkeley, I committed to living for a year at the Sonoma Ashram to deepen my spiritual practice and to be of service to those who come here searching. Part of the practice is to remain awake, aware and mindful even after the freshness of a new experience fades. On May 15, at Sunday Satsang, I read this poem sharing my early impressions of daily ashram life with the community (sangha). Almost two months in, the freshness remains alive as change occurs moment by moment, one breath at a time.
To Be Sacred
Frogs squeak, quail scold, heron startles, dragonflies dance,
The symphony of spring gives way to summer.
Cabbage heads grown to full glory laugh because we can’t bear to pick them.
We are in awe of their beauty.
Yet roses, marigolds and gladiolas compete for the altar.
Did you know that you can eat kale EVERY single day,
And that Basmati rice stands at attention when done?
Teacher asked, “can you hear the water boiling?”
Cooking requires the awareness of all our senses
The silence of kitchen dharma turns food to Prasad.
In one day two full-grown palm trees are planted,
Three holes and one trench were dug… and filled in…
“Life here is like living on a sand mandala,” said teacher.
Can you be that unattached to outcomes?
Are you willing to embrace this life with open arms?
To be here, it’s best to arrive open, even empty
Willing to drink in the endless possibilities,
The fullness overflowing that is offered.
No need to be like Kabir’s fish in the water who’s thirsty…
This place brings you home again and again to your Self.
Like a mobius loop the sacred surroundings reflect
Our sacred Selves infused in them through our Sadhana and Seva.
One feeds the other in a never-ending cycle of gratitude.
Teacher said, “what ever you expect, it will be totally different.”
Stillness is only a mental construct. Watch and see.
Sweep the floor, prepare your meals, make your bed
As if the Divine were coming for a visit.
Whether she arrives as the wind whispering on the chimes,
the placement of a flower just so, a restless guest,
or the inflection of a word – the Shakti, is always with you.
Sacred is as sacred does. Space, time, place, being, beyond.
We are one with the Divine, and this is the Divine play.
So talk with the squeaky frogs, admire the cabbage heads.
Infuse your thoughts, words, and deeds with love. Ride the breath,
and come home to the sacred sanctuary of your Self.
©Lisa J Winston 2016
o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o
9/9/2015 Dear fellow seminary students at The Chaplaincy Institute:
VULNERABILITY – Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage – Brene Brown
GOING INWARD – The outward work will never be puny if the inward work is great. – Meister Eckhart
Turning deeply inward and sharing vulnerability outwardly are my growing edges as defined by my vocational assessment review, a process we all undergo to reaffirm our calling to the ministry. In a nutshell… “I would benefit from continuing to turn my focus inward for a deeper understanding of my vulnerabilities, emotions, wants and needs and to begin sharing these experiences with others and engaging in a more vulnerable and dependent position with people whom I feel safe and trusting with. It is this capacity to turn more fully in and express myself from this place of vulnerability that will provide even greater opportunities for full presence with others in their vulnerable places.”
Sound familiar? This seems to be a recurring theme amongst us in our cohort. I have to say it pushed some buttons. My initial reaction was to feel like I need to learn psychological and emotional martial arts. In my body I felt this push and pull motion like a Tai Chi move. Then my mind immediately went on overdrive: vulnerability equals weakness. Weakness means I need defenses. Defenses means I need to protect my heart. To protect my heart means I need to shut down or disassociate. Ooooh… Then an Ah-Ha moment. The capacity to turn inward and to express my vulnerability outwardly are two sides of the same coin! I have to first know what my needs and wants are before I can share them, and by sharing I become more present with others.
I took this to my Hindu teacher…whining a little bit about going inward and being outwardly vulnerable…tears welling up in my eyes. Babaji looked at me and said, …”yes and you need to learn to be vulnerable without falling apart.” With that, he got up and left. Sitting there slightly stunned I thought, what the heck?? Where did these tears come from? Hadn’t I worked through all my emotional complexes and learned how to console my wounded inner child from the Tree of Life teachings and Spiritual Psychology?? Alas, this little hang-up around vulnerability just bit me in the ass again, so it apparently still needs attention.
Next I brought my growing edges into a ChI circle gathering. I said that I didn’t want to wrap my head around this particular genre of vulnerability; I wanted to wrap my heart around it. This is the vulnerability that breaks the heart wide open and then breathes expansiveness, light, love and calm equanimity into that space. This vulnerability is where my truth lies where I am able to uncover and discover something about myself that I may not have recognized or that perhaps I’ve been avoiding.
So to quote from Reb Zalman from Jewish with Feeling – this is what I’m asking: “Do me a favor. I’m confused. I don’t quite know what I stand for these days. I’m never sure how I come across to people, whether the message that I think I’m projecting is in fact what people really see. I want to make a change. I want to steer better. Can you tell me what kind of person you see when you look at me? Can you mirror myself back to me, give me your gentle but honest assessment of how I’m doing?”
Here are a few vulnerable issues that I’m sitting with these days:
FEAR/Trust– I started school as my money was running low. My financial situation is tenuous and I am in a place of not knowing yet how it will resolve so that I can continue to be here through 2016 modules, ordination and create right livelihood. I hold this space of not-knowing, openly asking for assistance and shifting my perspective, gratefully allowing opportunities to arise.
DOUBT/Faith – At least once each module, usually around topics involving hospital chaplaincy and CPE, I get triggered and bump up against feeling totally out of my element. I’m an artist, a photographer. How do I make this fit into ministry let alone chaplaincy? Some have heard me say, “What the F ____ am I doing here?” Your support is always perfect. Thank you. So much of my inward reflection is around trusting that I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be…and that it’s okay that not everything here is a fit for me…or maybe it is and I just don’t yet know it.
EXPECTATIONS/Self Worth – I have SO many ideas for my ministry that my mind and heart are full to overflowing. There are literally limitless possibilities of how to BE, to teach and to serve. I struggle to focus on a few, let alone ONE, suffering from analysis paralysis — because I’m not sure what is right, or best, or good enough. It was recommended that I find a mentor to help me with this focus. Our dear founder, Gina Rose, has stepped in to help me connect the dots.
DISCERNMENT/Intentions – WHY am I compelled to “teach people to see?” Yes, I heard a voice a decade ago, but is it really my destiny memo? Why isn’t it manifesting in a sustainable form? What am I not seeing? What are my blind spots, my aversions?
Then I watched a TED talk by BJ Miller, Director of the San Francisco Zen Hospice Project and it all came together. He talked about changing the experience, shifting the perspective of dying. Which is also about shifting the perspective of living. In his talk he said that he studied Visual Art in college to learn something about how to see, because a horrific accident had left him with only one full limb, and that he couldn’t change much about what he was seeing. And then he said: “Perspective, that kind of alchemy we humans get to play with, turning anguish into a flower.”
Breathe into that one a moment! …turning anguish into a flower…
THAT struck a chord and the tears welled up. This simple yet profound statement helps me unpack the deeper meaning of a message that came to me in my near-death experience 10 years ago– “painting, painting, painting, I just want to paint flowers.” When I pair that with “teach people to see” and the understanding from BJ’s comment, I get that my purpose in life, my mitvah, my ministry, truly is to shift perspectives –-to see beauty, meaning, wisdom, and inner divinity at whatever stage we are in life and to repair the world —tikkun olam– in some small way, turning anguish into a flower.
Each of us may use different words, but I think this is our collective destiny, and for me it starts with shifting my perspective and honoring my growing edges. In our work we must take exquisite care of ourselves and each other. If our intention is to be of service to others and the world, we must support each other and our own trust, faith and self-worth.
In closing, from Jewish with Feeling: “Lending our eyes so a friend can better accomplish her own desires is just as precious a mitzvah as lending money or things. We are not doling out insight to the needy, but helping a friend stand squarely on her own two feet in the world.”
I hope this sharing offers you some support on your journey. I am humbly grateful for your reflections, your wisdom and your support. May our tikkun olam – speak truth, be courageous, and help turn anguish into flowers. Thank you for bearing witness. Namaste and Shalom.